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davidx Achiltibuie - A travel report by David
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Achiltibuie,  United Kingdom - flag United Kingdom
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davidx's travel reports

Lochinver and Achiltibuie

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The NW continuation following from my Ullapool report. This area includes sights of unbelievable beauty and shows why I quickly suffer from Scotland deficiency after a short spell of not going there, wherever else I’ve been.

Bullshit, you think? No way! Try going to Lochinver and following the unbelievably terrible road from the point of view of car travel to Achiltibuie via Inverkirkaig. It’s narrow and steep and as tortuous as any I know – but if you don’t accept my claim about beauty, I’m sorry for you. This is quite as good as anything I’ve seen elsewhere in Europe. Lochinver’s history is based on fishing. It has never been a ferry port for the islands, Ullapool being the most northerly for Lewis and the Orkneys having to wait until you get to the north-facing coast. Going direct to either place from the south will not take you along this road. To Lochinver you will go on the A837 along the south side of lovely Quinag, past Loch Assynt. The obvious route for Achiltibuie is unclassified, and largely single track with passing places, signed from the A835 near Ledmore. This is another road of surpassing beauty with the Torridonian mountains of Cul, Mor, Cul Beag, Stac Polaidh [I flatly refuse to call it by a name recalling kettles] and Ben Mor Coigach. These are all separate peaks, unlike the great ranges of the Loch Torridon area. To give some perspective on the area, the 2001 census showed a population for Lochinver of about 650, hardly vast – until you compare it with Achiltibuie, which has less than half! Moreover there’s nowhere touching Lochinver in size farther up the west coast. It even has shops and you can probably get what you forgot to bring! Scotland’s attractions up here consist entirely of mountains, lochs, beaches and islands – the Summer Islands off Achiltibuie being enchanting even if only one is populated. Have a look at www. t he-island.htm – yes, there is holiday accommodation! Whilst we are on websites, as so often I have to direct your attention to http://www.undiscove-redscotland.c [scroll down – it’s not your computer causing that gap]. There are some smashing photos there.

Favourite spots:
OK, let’s deal with that road between the two places, from Lochinver. The view to your left is dominated by the magical Suilven. It’s not its height that makes it so popular. It’s nowhere near Munroe status [3,000 feet] but its isolation [wherever you start you have a long walk] and the appearance of its crest make it appear challenging. In fact once you have reached the saddle between its two peaks it’s an easy scramble to either top. Inverkirkaig, a tiny settlement which is the only place that will register on your route, is worth a stop. It’s a fine start to Suilven but the walk as far as the Kirkaig falls follows a salmon river at its best. Moreover there is a really good bookshop here and a place for refreshments. Then you have a scenic but potentially dangerous pass followed by the utterly idyllic stretch by the side of a totally unpronounceable loch before heading up a narrow river valley and past some lochans to meet eventually with the ‘main’ road to Achiltibuie.

What's really great:
The name Achiltibuie is often used a bit loosely to cover all the area after the two roads meet [above]. This includes Achnahaird, where the bay is startlingly good for sand and scenery. At Achiltibuie itself it’s the view out to those islands that’s so exquisite, especially when streaked by purple and silver in a late summer sunset. If you want to see them even better, you can look up a route for Ben Mor Coigach, that is immediately above you on the landward side. That’s one I missed, unfortunately. Have a look at www.achilt [it’s easy to ignore the adverts and there are some good photos]. I see from the undiscovered Scotland site that htere is now a thing called a hydroponicum there, where plants from a number of different climates are grown without water. This wasn’t there when I went as far as I know but the smokehouse is a longtime attraction. The walk around the coast to Blugasary is covered in my Ullapool report [in reverse].

Time for some mountains. I feel sad whenever I think of Stac Pollaidh. When I first went up in the 70s, there was a small path winding up to the saddle and the crest from there was magical. The last time I went in the early 80s it was more like an unpaved road and the crest was horribly eroded. Goodness knows what it’s like now. That’s the problem with an easy ascent right by the road. Cul Beag, near to it, is harder to ascend and there isn’t –or wasn’t – an obvious route so it may well be less eroded. Cul Mor is accessible from two roads but is farther to walk. What they have in common is an outstanding view north, the prevalence of tiny lochans meaning there is as much water as land. Canisp, near the main road into Lochinver has never appealed to me particularly – too regular and orderly in its shape. Suilven is covered above.

Lochinver Hotel – fine selection of whisky.
Summer Isles Hotel, Achiltibuie Hotel – claims its seafood is very fresh. Quite believable!

Other recommendations:
Still another Torridonian mountain and one of my favourites, possibly because the rewards of walking along the crest are so great in relation to the slog to the top from a high point of the main road to the Kylescu bridge. This is Quinag, in the shape of a Y wiht the stem pointing WNW and the arms north and NE. The only bit in any way troublesome is the first very wet bit from the road but it’s short and the rest is pure delight.
Unfortunately I’ve missed going up Ben Mor(e) Assynt [inland from Lochinver] as well as Ben Mor(e) Coigach.

Published on Wednesday May 4th, 2005

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Thu, May 05 2005 - 04:51 AM rating by britman

Excellent report - -on one of my favourite areas in the world! I first went there Youth Hostelling at 15 years of age - hitchiking all the way! Just wish you had photo's to show off the beauty of the whole area then I could have given you ***** .

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